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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Canes swap Samsonov at trade deadline

Posted by on Tue, Mar 1, 2011 at 8:17 AM

The Carolina Hurricanes beefed up their defense for the playoff run Monday, acquiring blueliner Bryan Allen from the Florida Panthers. Winger Sergei Samsonov was sent to the Panthers, for whom he will play against his old teammates when they visit the Canes on Tuesday.

Sergei Samsonov was sent to the Florida Panthers at the trade deadline for defender Bryan Allen.
  • File photo by Rob Rowe
  • Sergei Samsonov was sent to the Florida Panthers at the trade deadline for defender Bryan Allen.
“Bryan is a good addition to our defense,” said general manager Jim Rutherford in a team statement. “He has great character and experience and will add size and grit to our team.” Allen has another year left on his current contract, at $2.9 million.

The trade is the last of several moves in recent days that have seen Allen, winger Cory Stillman, and young defender Derek Joslin come to Carolina. Sergei Samsonov, who had scored 10 goals and 16 assists this season while bouncing around the depth chart, defender Ian White, fourth-line center Ryan Carter, and depth defenseman Brett Carson are all off to new teams. Carolina also exchanged a fifth-round draft pick for a second-rounder in the fray.

Allen's not a scorer, but he led the Panthers in hits and blocked shots, two statistical categories that get more marks in them during the playoffs as goals and assists drop off. He's physical, fearless, and can gobble up minutes. As importantly, he gives Carolina four veteran defenders down the stretch, during which the Canes can expect every game to be hotly contested.

Given the recent trend of losing late leads, Rutherford has adjusted the roster to stiffen the back end. Stillman's addition should make the power play better, as well.

Samsonov's loss is understandable, but also a bit saddening. As the top two lines have solidified over the last month, the Russian winger has found himself skating with the grinders and energy guys. His power play time has diminished, and he's not been contributing points. Still, Carolina fans will miss his occasional and scintillating puck-handling displays, skating zigzag circles in the offensive zone as the defense is gradually drawn toward him, opening up opportunities for teammates. These forays, however, had become few and far between.

The names that didn't move are as interesting as those who did. Joni Pitkanen, the team's third-highest paid player and a pending unrestricted free agent, remains a Cane. Pitkanen's disappointing play throughout the season caused his name to surface frequently in trade rumors, as his reputation remains favorable as a puck-moving, big-minutes defender throughout the league. That Rutherford kept him is either a hopeful vote of confidence that Pitkanen can raise his game for the stretch drive or an indicator of how hard it is to move big-dollar players under the salary cap. Other high-price players about which trade speculation swirled such as Dallas' Brad Richards, Colorado's John-Michael Liles, and Edmonton's Ales Hemsky stayed put as well.

Other pending Carolina UFAs who were undoubtedly interesting rental players for other teams such as Erik Cole, Chad LaRose, and Jussi Jokinen remained in Raleigh. Sometimes the team you have is better than the team you could have by shuffling players around.

Early on deadline day, Carolina lost defenseman Brett Carson, who was claimed off waivers by the Calgary Flames. Carson, who has shuttled between the Hurricanes and the AHL Charlotte Checkers this season, is a regrettable loss, more for Charlotte's playoff hopes than Carolina's. But Joslin could play that role of the seventh defenseman who gets to drive up and down route 85 to play for two teams.

Carter, who went to Florida on Feb. 24, will be a familiar face for Samsonov. White went to San Jose on Feb. 18.

It will be weird for fans and players alike to see Samsonov in a Panthers jersey on the RBC Center ice barely 24 hours after the trade. Expect a warm swell of applause and thanks from the Raleigh faithful. As that fanfare dies down, it marks the beginning of the playoff stretch for the Canes.

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